To mark my own rite of passage through menopause I gave myself a few days alone in the mountains. I wanted to honor my graduation into the new stage of Second Adulthood and to reward my body for all the days it had already served me. On the last day I awoke after a full refreshment of sleep on a nearly empty stomach and opened the curtains to a dazzling sight.
The moon hung full over the hills. Unhurried by the day's first light, she reveled in her fullness. I went outside to sit in contemplation of her, and we faced each other in utter equanimity: She who had pulled the tides of my inner sea for 450-some months, powerfully, capriciously, violently, now had relaxed her hold on me and left my waters calm as a lagoon after a tropical storm. Emptied, I sat there in the twig-brushing breeze and savored the quiet aliveness that had come to me at last.
The moon began to sink, and I rose to fill my container with the new day. I felt pulled to hike once more up a mountain considered sacred by shamans who once ministered to the Indians of this valley. Even then this mountain radiated a spiritual energy that drew those with the most subtle attunedness. Here the shamans marked rites of passage and performed rituals for birth and rites of fertility. It seemed an apt place to create my own ritual for marking this third blood mystery of a woman's life.
On the approach to the mountain my senses were quickened by each patch of herbs - the snap of sage, the tickle of thyme, the melancholy of rosemary, and what was that? The swoon of honeysuckle? Soon the scents were left behind as the bare rock and silver stubble of the foothills asserted their elemental simplicity. No frills here, only endurance. The wild herbs and grasses and desert flowers have the look of all healthily aging things: silvery gray, with strong roots, their flexible stems able to bend in the storm, their flowers calculated to bloom in the fissures between. All that is most creative and startling in life springs up in the cracks between.
As I followed the spiraling path up the mountain, lifting out of myself, I felt my inner world merging with the outer world. It was a world of silences, broken only by the munch of football on the crumbled earth and the sucking of Santa Ana winds. The moon was still in place. All at once the sun carved a dipper out of the opposite mountain and ladled its liquid gold down the face. The pure energy was almost overpowering. A sparkler of red and green spun for a few seconds in a mirrored circle beneath the great ball.
Then I sat for an undeciphered period of time in meditation on the brow of the mountain. Honor the mellowed silence in you, I thought. Mark these moments when you are aware of not doing, not wanting, not preparing for the next activity, but simply filling with the moment. The more still I became, the more I was able to feel the earth traveling beneath me. I could see the sun hung over one horizon, ravishing, while behind me, in exactly the same position over the shadow of the mountain, the moon was fading. The symbols of day and night hung in perfect equipoise. The wind quieted.
Then all at once I felt a surge of energy. Warm, whirling, giddy, it moved upward, setting words to buzzing in my brain. A sense of such exultation filled me. It was as if the hourglass had been turned over and the crystals of creative energy were flowing in reverse - from womb to mind. I couldn't wait to get back to my laptop...my writing... my passion.
We are all pilgrims together, finding our way, but the markers we lay along the trail will beckon future generations to even longer lives. Let us mark the way well. Filled with new life and license, let us bring the symbols of light and shadow together and begin again.
Sheehy, G. (1991). The silent passage. New York, NY: Random House.